Saturday, August 15, 2020

Alexander Gardner's Finest 1863 Photograph of President Lincoln.

In mid-summer of 1863, both President Lincoln’s and the Union’s future were looking up. The twin victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July had dealt a serve blow to the Confederate war effort. Much of the initial opposition in the North to his early politics was beginning to melt away, and even his most ardent opponents were forced to admit that Lincoln was honest, patriotic, and moving the country forward. To escape the heat that summer, Mary Lincoln along with their children Robert and Tad decided to head north to the White Mountains of Vermont for an extended holiday. 

“Alone” in the White House, the President decided on Sunday, August 9th to pay a visit to the famed Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner, whose studio was located at the corner of 7th and D streets. Earlier that year Mr. Gardner had left the employ of Matthew Brady, who was considered one of the premier photographers in the country, to open his own photography studio. 
Signed carte-de-visite of Lincoln, as photographed by Alexander Gardner in 1863.
The President, accompanied by his assistant secretary John Hay, would pose that day for what has become one of the more iconic images associated with Mr. Lincoln’s Presidency. The photo shows the President seated in a three-quarter profile, his left arm resting on a table and holding a copy of the Washington Morning Chronicle, while his right hand, holding his spectacles, rests upon his leg. The President’s slight smile and a distant look in his eyes make it seems as though he is focusing upon some unseen goal. The clarity of Gardner’s image is so remarkable that a housefly that had landed on the President’s trousers is clearly visible. The image is attached to a gilt-ruled mount, and was boldly signed by the President beneath the image with his trademark “A. Lincoln.” 

“Four Score and Seven” Magazine Article
Edited by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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